Home News and Features Goddard’s Prez Hocoy Weighs in on Strike

Goddard’s Prez Hocoy Weighs in on Strike

Shannon Trainor and Manuel O'Neil, members of the Goddard College staff, report updates from contract negotiations with the school's administration on March 24. Photo by J. Gregory Gerdel.
Negotiations Ongoing

Dan Hocoy, president of Goddard College since 2021, has weighed in on the workers’ union strike at the Plainfield, Vermont campus. Picketing began around noon on March 24, when several workers walked off their jobs at the beginning of a new educational residency. Negotiations between union representation for workers and college management are continuing “in good faith” on Saturday, March 25, Hocoy told The Bridge by email.

Goddard’s workers — members of the UAW 2322 union — voted to authorize a strike on March 13. They waited until March 24 to walk off their jobs and begin picketing near the entrance of the college, citing that negotiations had failed to yield acceptable results. The job categories of people who walked out includes facilities workers, help desk, housekeeping, information technology, and accounting/payroll.

The strike date is also the start of a new residency on campus for one graduate and two undergraduate programs, according to the published calendar. Students have arrived and are scheduled to attend their educational programs throughout the week, celebrate a graduation on March 26, and conclude their residencies March 31 — all without typical staffing unless an agreement is reached. From a practical standpoint, the jobs/services affected by the strike include people who mop the floors; clean up puke; fix leaks in the roof; shovel snow; replace keys for people locked out of their rooms; change lightbulbs; unclog toilets; replace toilet paper rolls and liquid hand soap; launder and replace bath mats; provide students with maps, calendars and any information they may need; set up and troubleshoot classrooms for classes — including all technical virtual equipment — and set up the Haybarn for graduation. Striking during this time will likely negatively impact operations and has irked President Hocoy.

Returning an email seeking comment, Hocoy expressed disappointment for the timing of the walkout following about a year of discussions. “As you know, we’ve been working closely with the UAW staff union to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement since Spring of 2022. The CBA (collective bargaining agreement) eventually expired in June of 2022. The College offered a 3% salary increase last Spring to take effect July 1, 2022, but the UAW staff union was unwilling to agree to language regarding management rights that is standard in almost every CBA in the United States,” Hocoy wrote.

“I was very disappointed in the decision of the Union to strike yesterday, since I felt that the staff union and the college had made significant progress in negotiations over the past week and, from my understanding, we were very, very close to a final settlement.”

“As you know, . . . Goddard is a college deeply committed to democratic values as well as the well-being of our union staff, so we are listening carefully to the concerns being expressed. But I also feel that a strike, when we have students in residency on campus (whose well-being and safety we are responsible for), is truly regretful.”

Hocoy further wrote that the college respects the right of workers to strike; however, the college has to provide students with the education and services “to which they are entitled.” Hocoy further writes that he and those at the top have repeatedly invited union representation to use a federal mediator to facilitate negotiations, but the union has refused. Nevertheless, Hocoy stated the administration is “dedicated to having a thriving and financially durable institution, being a leader in higher education innovation, and solidifying Goddard’s essential and unique contribution to the academic landscape.”

Hocoy closed his response to The Bridge with, “I hope the union will join us to build a strong and sustainable Goddard; our students, past, present, and future deserve nothing less.” 

Wayfinding signs outside the Community Center building at the center of the Goddard campus. Photo by J. Gregory Gerdel.
Meanwhile the strike has entered its second day on campus. Union representation has accused Hocoy and management of refusing to come to an agreement with the staff, and earlier in the month, on March 13, union members voted “no confidence” in Hocoy’s leadership. Still, those familiar with the saga of Goddard College’s existence know it has faced rocky times before and survived. And the feeling gathered by The Bridge from both Hocoy and workers is for a better, stronger organization to emerge.

Goddard is an educational institution with roots dating back to 1863 in Barre as the Green Mountain Central Institute. It was named Goddard Seminary in 1870 after a wealthy benefactor with the last name of Goddard, and was then a four-year preparatory high school, according to Wikipedia. It then added a junior college program, which was headed by Goddard Seminary graduate Royce “Tim” Pitkin in 1935. Seminary honchos brought the college to the Martin family’s Greatwood Farm property in 1938 and renamed it Goddard College.

List of Goddard College presidents (including interim, acting, and de facto):

  1. Royce “Tim” Pitkin (1935–1969)
  2. Jerry Witherspoon (1969–1974)
  3. Jack Andrews, interim (1974–1975)
  4. Dick Graham (1975–1976)
  5. John Hall, interim (1976)
  6. John Hall (1977–1980)
  7. Victor Ehly (1980–1981)
  8. Jack Lindquist (1981–1990)
  9. Beth Warrell, interim (1990)
  10. Jackson Kyrtle (1990–1994)
  11. Richard Greene (1994–1996)
  12. Jane Sanders, provost (1996)
  13. Barbara Mossberg (1997–2001)
  14. Stephen Fritz, interim (2001–-2002)
  15. Mark Schulman (2003–2010)
  16. Barbara Vacarr (2010–2013)
  17. Avram Patt, acting (2013)
  18. Robert Kenny (2014–2018)
  19. Bernard Bull (2018–2020)
  20. Dan Hocoy (2021–present)
Full disclosure: The author has been a student and earned a master of fine arts degree from Goddard College’s low residency writing program, participated as a volunteer radio programmer on WGDR, and also worked as a Goddard College help desk and housekeeping employee. Her son is among the striking workers.